The King Cake is a Catholic tradition that celebrates the Epiphany, or Twelfth Night, which starts on Jan. 6 marking the night the three wise men delivered gifts to the baby Jesus and continues until Fat Tuesday. King Cake differs around the world and even from bakery to bakery. Louisiana King Cakes are sweet, oval shaped pastries, decorated with icing or colored sugar in the traditional Mardi Gras colors, purple, green, and gold.
The King Cake is said to have originated in Old World France and Spain and was brought to the New World with Catholicism and Christianity. The King Cake naturally became associated with Mardi Gras that runs the same time as the Epiphany.
The baker at Caribbean Ice Company, Elizabeth Shensky, bakes this Old-World version King Cake. The French style, galette des rois, is a flaky pastry filled with frangipane, almond cream and oftentimes, fruit. An embellished pattern is etched on the top before baking. Traditionally, the galette hides a bean inside and is adorned with a paper crown to symbolize new beginnings and king of the day.
Elizabeth has been making galettes for about a year since she moved back to New Iberia. And now the baker is set to open her own bakery this summer. Yet there was a time when Elizabeth almost gave it all up.
After graduating from Apiciues Culinary School under the Florence University of the Arts in Florence, Italy, Elizabeth worked in New York, Cape Cod, and Provincetown, Massachusetts. But baking was taking a toll. The long hours on her feet, the heavy lifting bags of sugar; all of it was starting to weigh on Elizabeth. But when she moved back home and found the perfect building to open her own bakery with her fiancé, who is a chef, her passion for delectable treats was fueled once more.
Elizabeth’s galettes are unique, fresh, and from personal knowledge, exquisite. She imports her butter from France, which is shipped in sheet forms at ½ inch thick. The butter makes up half the puff pastry dough, is extra dry, and contains more fat that provides for a better consistency of the dough.
One King Cake takes about a day and half to make, although a lot of the time is allowing the dough to rest. Allowing the dough to rest overnight makes the layers more defined and flakier. Elizabeth then builds the cake and freezes it, allowing the butter to solidify. Then she bakes the cake from the freezer, which creates a better product.
The result is a light custard-like flaky cake, that is soft on the inside filled with the mouthwatering tastes of almond cream, brandy, dried cranberries, and orange. Order yours today at Caribbean Ice for a completely different King Cake experience.
Elizabeth Shensky: French King Cake Connoisseur
Why did you get into baking?
I have always baked with my mom since I was little. I was also very much into the arts. In high school I was a part of theater and was determined to go to school for that. But in my junior or senior year, I started baking a lot on my own and traveling. I fell in love with traveling and eating the foods of different cultures. And with a hobby of baking, I ate lots of European style pastries and just fell in love with the beauty and creativity of the style. So, I thought, why can’t I study baking in Italy and travel all over? So, I did.
Where have you worked since being a baker?
After pastry school in Florence, Italy in 2014, I came back to Louisiana, but shortly moved to New York City for a baking job. That job led to another on Cape Cod, and then another in Provincetown, Massachusetts. But the long, laborious hours were beginning to take a toll on me, and I lost my passion. I returned home and started working for my family cafe, Caribbean Ice. Then I found a building in New Iberia perfect to open my own bakery and café. Now I am 100 percent back into baking because doing something for yourself is a whole new outlook.
So, you are opening a bakery and café?
Yes, my fiancé, who is a chef, and I are opening Everyday Café in summer of 2021. We will have European style pastries and savory items like sourdough breads and croutons. We will have a seasonal menu and a daily changing menu, but also staples that we will serve every day.
Where is the farthest place you have shipped a King Cake?
The farthest I have actually shipped a King Cake has been Montana. But last year I had a customer call me from Arizona and order a King Cake for his family up in Alaska who was having a Louisiana themed crawfish boil. So, though I didn’t ship it to Alaska, my cake has been enjoyed there!